The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is feeling pressure to start cracking down on televangelists after a recently aired segment on HBO’s "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver."
In the segment, comedian and host John Oliver blasted televangelists who “seed faith,” which essentially means televangelists manipulate their religious followers into donating money to televangelist leaders and their megachurches. The televangelists reportedly lead people to believe that they will reap rewards from God if they donate.
“They preach something called the prosperity gospel which argues that wealth is a sign of God’s favor and donations will result in wealth coming back to you," Oliver said. "That idea sometimes takes the form of seed faith – the notion that donations are seeds that you will one day get to harvest.
“ ... The argument is ‘sow your money into the ground, you will reap returns multiple times over,’ except as an investment you’d be better off burying your money in the actual ground because at least that way there’s a chance your dog may dig it up and give it back to you one day.”
Ole Anthony, president of the Trinity Foundation — which investigates religious fraud — said that millions of people have donated to televangelists in the hopes of being healed or helped by God through their monetary contributions.
“They keep trying to send more money, more money, more money so they can get healed,” Anthony said, according to CBS News.
Oliver also used his segment to expose the alarmingly simple process of establishing a church, which by its nature is tax exempt. The comedian even set up his own church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, to prove his point.
According to both Oliver and Anthony, the IRS only conducted three church audits in both 2013 and 2014.
“A few years ago, the IRS named Scientology a church. Since that happened, anybody can call themselves a church,” Anthony said.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, David Shankbone/Wikipedia CC